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NIEHS and University of Cincinnati Host Environmental Health Town Hall Meeting

By Eddy Ball
October 2008

Martin, right foreground, and Schelp, on her left in dark jacket
Martin, right foreground, and Schelp, on her left in dark jacket, joined participants as they listened to the keynote speakers. (Photo courtesy of the University of Cincinnati)

Wilson underscored the NIEHS commitment to producing the solid science to underpin good policy and regulatory efforts to impact environmental public health. He spoke against the backdrop of a wall of quilts celebrating the struggles of slaves seeking freedom through the Underground Railroad. (Photo courtesy of the University of Cincinnati)

Driehaus, Ho and Wilson
Following their introductory remarks, from left to right, Driehaus, Ho and Wilson pose in front of a mural featuring scenes from the Underground Railroad. (Photo courtesy of the University of Cincinnati)

The September 15 town hall meeting, "Your Home, Your Health, Your Voice," was about empowerment for individuals dealing with environmental exposures, and it was held appropriately in a monument to empowerment during extreme adversity, the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The meeting was jointly sponsored by NIEHS and the University of Cincinnati (UC) Center for Environmental Genetics (CEG). The event featured talks by experts at UC to help residents understand better the exposures they face each day and to offer practical ideas about how individuals can improve aspects of their health related to those exposures.

Welcoming attendees to the day-long event were CEG Director Shuk-mei Ho, Ph.D., NIEHS Acting Director Sam Wilson, M.D., and Ohio State Rep. Steven Driehaus. In his comments, Wilson talked about the value of community engagement by scientists.

"Town hall meetings are important to share views and understand where real needs are on the academic side and from community groups," Wilson said. "The potential benefit is enormous."

The speakers from CEG, who are some of the leading researchers in the environmental health sciences, focused on hazards in the home, including exposures to lead, plastics, second-hand smoke, mold and traffic exhaust. Attendees learned how to recognize potentially harmful exposures, prevent them when possible and find help to correct them if necessary.

"This was a unique opportunity for the Greater Cincinnati community and others throughout the region because this will be the only NIEHS town hall meeting of this kind in 2008," said Elizabeth Kopras, CEG junior research associate and meeting coordinator. "Attendees had the opportunity to have direct input on the decision-making process for how NIEHS allocates its funding opportunities for the upcoming fiscal year - as well leave the meeting better equipped to protect their health and the health of their loved ones."

Accompanying Wilson to the meeting were NIEHS Director of Science Policy and Planning Joyce Martin, J.D., and John Schelp, special assistant to the director. Schelp also helps coordinate the NIEHS Public Interest Partners group, a national forum for community advocacy.

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